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Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category

When I was twelve years old, I met one of my (still) best friends. While my family’s garden consisted of roses, camellias, fruit trees, colorful annuals, and lawn and our indoor plants were limited to African violets, hers had Japanese inspired landscaping outside and tropical plants inside. After all, they had been to Hawaii! The orchids and anthurium seemed so exotic and I was impressed. Eventually, over the years, orchids became one of my houseplants of choice but, for some reason (maybe cost?), I’ve never had an anthurium until now.

While shopping for poinsettias last month at my favorite seasonal plant pop-up shop (1/2 block up from Mercado Sánchez Pascuas on Tinoco y Palacios), I saw this anthurium (anterio en español), the price was 1/5th the cost in el norte, and couldn’t resist.

My goal is to find a talavera pot for the anthurium (aka, flamingo flower, tailflower, painter’s palette, and laceleaf). In the meantime, set against my beautiful old hand-carved and painted desk from Michoacán, my Christmas gift to myself brings a smile — much needed during these challenging times. And, according to Wikipedia, it is “effective in removing formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and ammonia from the air” — though I suspect that’s not a problem here at Casita Colibrí.

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Hindsight is the ability to understand, after something has happened, why or how it was done and how it might have been done better.

2020 was a year that most of us would like to forget but that will probably remain vividly etched in our memory banks for the rest of our lives. It was a year our worlds became smaller and forced us to see what was before us. It was a year that we will continue to examine and try to understand. It was a year that has important lessons to teach about who we are individually and collectively.

January 2020 – Visiting very dear friends and getting my Pacific Ocean fix at Avila Beach, California.
February 2020 – New resident in Casita Colibrí’s garden, an Argiope spider.
March 2020 – One of the last calendas of the year, graduation of public accountants.
April 2020 – Morning visitors at Casita Colibrí.
May 2020 – Sunday morning walk past the Xochimilco Aqueduct Arches.
June 2020 – Morning view from Casita Colibrí of Templo de San Felipe Neri.
July 2020 – Balcony garden of greens at Casita Colibrí.
August 2020 – Rainy season morning view of Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad from Casita Colibrí.
September 2020 – Monday morning walk on calle Garcia Vigil, “Together in (healthy) distance.”
October 2020 – Susana Trilling discusses the foods of Day of the Dead at Casa Colonial.
November 2020 – Sunset view from Casita Colibrí of the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad.
December 2020 – Sunday morning encounter with the new sculpture on the Alcalá, “Agaves Contemporáneos Oaxaqueños” presented by the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO).

With a renewed appreciation for the small things that bring joy and give life meaning, on this New Year’s Eve, I wish you all health, peace, and joy in 2021.

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Poinsetta, also known as Nochebuena

While there may be no life-size nacimiento (Nativity scene) or towering Christmas tree standing in Oaxaca’s zócalo this year, mine in miniature have been retrieved from the storage closet and sit atop the sideboard of my great room.

In this challenging holiday season, may this newly remastered version of “Pancho Claus” by Chicano musical legend Eduardo “Lalo” Guerrero and sung by Irma Garza bring you a chuckle or two on this Christmas Eve — known in Mexico as Nochebuena.

Pancho Claus

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa
Mama she was busy preparing the masa
To make the tamales for the tamalada

And all the ingredients for the enchiladas

Papa in the front room with all the muchachas
Was dancing the mambo and doing the cha cha
My brothers and sisters were out in the hall
Listening to Elvis singing rock ‘n roll

When all of a sudden there came such a racket
I jumped out of bed and I put on my jacket
I looked out the window and in front of the house
Was my old uncle Pedro as drunk as a louse
He ran in the casa he grabbed the guitarra
He let out a yell and played “Guadalajara”

I was starting to wonder as I lay there alone
How old Santa Claus was to visit my home
With all of this noise they would scare him away
When all of a sudden I hear someone say
Hey Pablo, Chuchito Hey! Arriba! Gordito, Jose
Get up there you bums or you don’t get no hay

And then to my wondering eyes did appear
Eight cute little donkeys instead of reindeer
They pulled a carreta that was full of toys
For all of us good little girls and boys

The fat little driver waved his big sombrero
And said Merry Christmas! Feliz Año Nuevo!
That means “Happy New Year”
And then I hear him sing

I am Santa’s cousin from south of the border
My name’s Pancho Claus and I bring you your order
I hear him exclaim as he drove past the porches
“Merry Christmas to all and to all Buenas Noches”

Even my Olive tree is decorated with ubiquitous tin ornaments

From my home to yours, I wish you good health and Felices Fiestas!

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Given that the socially distanced dining on the terrace ice was broken earlier in the month, the entertaining continued with the arrival of L, my BFF since we were twelve. Kalisa — neighbor, friend, and cocinera extraordinaria – rose to the occasion and the three of us have been eating extremely well.

October 6, 2020 – Chicken and black bean memelas, huitlachoche and corn empanadas, salsas, and sautéed squash.
October 8, 2020 – Heirloom tomatoes, pickled onions, and queso fresco, accompanied by Parmesan Crisps hand carried from California.
October 8, 2020 – Guacamole, pickled onions, salsas, and peanuts.
October 8, 2020 – Tostadas of chicken and pork with spinach and guacamole.
October 14, 2020 – Chicken mole accompanied by rice and black beans.
October 18, 2020 – Salad of cucumber, onion, and peppers.
October 18, 2020 – Squash, fresh basil, huitlacoche, and cheese lasagna.

Lest you be concerned about the intervening dinners, the quantities were huge, doggie bags were taken back to our respective apartments, and leftovers continue to be happily consumed.

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Walking around, I often like to make up stories about the people, places, and things I see.

Woof, woof — I’ve overcome my vertigo!
Trapped behind bars, what did I do to deserve this?
Who colorized the shadow puppet rabbit?

These three images from last Sunday’s walk along Panorámica del Fortín, seem to beg for a tall tale or two.

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Last week, after seven months of Casita Colibrí being a visitor free zone, friends from California came to dine. Socially distanced seating was set up at the south end of the terrace.

The counter at the north end of the terraced was used as the staging area for food and drink.

We took turns selecting the fabulous fare prepared by my previously mentioned friend and neighbor, Kalisa.

Blue corn tortillas, guacamole, cucumber, and salsas to start.
Huitlacoche quesadillas.
Poblano chile strips with goat cheese.
Chicken wings.

Masks stayed on, except when eating, and early evening quickly turned into night as we talked and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. It had been so long!

Kalisa, the visiting couple, and I had so much fun, we did it again two nights later. And, yes, there was mezcal both nights!

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This morning, Oaxaca began mourning the loss of two of the Zócalo’s iconic and beloved Indian laurels. In less than 48 hours, two of these massive trees, planted between 1875 and 1885, had fallen. Unfortunately, in their untimely demise, they join several other Indian laurels shading the Zócalo and Alameda that have crashed to the ground in the past ten years.

Yellow caution tape at the entrance to the Alameda

The concern is there will be more — thus, today these public spaces have been closed to the public with yellow caution tape and police barring the entrances.

Standing water at the base of an Indian laurel tree on the Alameda.

Ostensibly, the high winds and torrential rain Oaxaca is currently experiencing caused the trees to topple. However, our stormy weather these days is only the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Tending to the hole left by the Indian laurel that fell on Sept. 15, 2020 at the southwest corner of the Zócalo.

Several years ago, as we walked through the Zócalo and Alameda, I remember listening intently as the late artist and tree historian/savior Francisco Verástegui passionately described the indignities these trees had suffered, including disruption to their root systems when, in 2005, a governor attempted to remodel the Zócalo.

Status update at the northwest corner of the Zócalo.

Thankfully, a protest movement stopped that plan, but damage had already been done. What followed, among other things, was improper pruning, inadequate irrigation, faulty drainage, and the use of unsterilized mulch leading to the growth of fungus and causing the roots to rot — all of which contributed to the trees tumbling down.

Indian laurel that fell the evening of Sept. 17, 2020 on the southeast corner of the Zócalo.

And, it’s not only the trees in the Alameda and Zócalo. The director of the civil association Oaxaca Fértil estimates that 90% of the trees in the municipality of Oaxaca have been neglected, are diseased, and run the risk of collapsing. Let us hope that more of the historic trees that contribute to the beauty of Oaxaca can be saved and cared for in the way they deserve.

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The flowers within and mountains beyond.

“I am large; I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

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This morning as dawn broke, a pitahaya bloomed in Oaxaca. Tipped off by my neighbor, I ran upstairs with my camera — before coffee, no less!

The eight inches across flower was definitely worth it because, alas, by late morning this beauty will have wilted. It will dry, eventually drop off, and fruit will begin to form on the section hiding behind the flower and from which it emerged.

In a few months, there will be a red luscious dragon fruit, like this one on a neighboring stalk. I miss the pitahayas that used to climb the chain link fence surrounding my terrace.

By the way, if you are confused about the difference between pitahaya and pitaya (as I used to be), this page from the Mexican government gives the most complete explanation I’ve seen. It’s worth running through a translator if you don’t read Spanish.

My entry in Cee’s Flower of the Day photo challenge.

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When the rains come and the three African Tulip trees (Spathodea campanulata, Tulipán africano, Flame trees, Flame of the Forest) in my apartment complex begin blooming, even grey days are brightened.

As the name suggests, Tulipán africano are native to Africa and I was first captivated by them in the early 1980s when I watched the PBS series, The Flame Trees of Thika, based on the Elspeth Huxley memoir about her early years in Kenya.

Beginning the late 1800s, these ornamental beauties were introduced to other parts of the world — thriving and even becoming invasive in many areas of the tropics.

Bursting with brilliance and providing food and shelter to a multitude of hummingbirds battling for territory and mates, these creations of Mother Nature always beckon me to stop, gaze, and marvel.

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When the outings are few and far between and limited to walking distance, I’m appreciating the views from and around Casita Colibrí even more.

June 3, 2020 – Templo de San Felipe Neri in early morning

June 3, 2020 – Jasmine in the afternoon

June 4, 2020 –  Wind chimes in the late afternoon

June 5, 2020 – Crocosmia around noon

June 5, 2020 – Looking southeast over the city in early evening

Be safe and well and look for the beauty.

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It was early morning in the garden and the clock was ticking. She isn’t called a Night Blooming Cereus for nothing.

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First one approached.

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It was followed by others. However, these weren’t friends and this wasn’t a party, it was seriously cereus work.

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That is about as exciting as it gets at Casita Colibrí during these days of Covid-19 under the “semáforo rojo” — the red stoplight — as contrasted with orange, yellow, and the much longed for green. Stay safe!

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Given the barrage of bad, sad, depressing, and infuriating news these days, I’m finding it difficult to string together more than a few words. However, who needs words when Mother Nature is speaking from my terrace — succulents and cactus to the rescue.

Quaqua

 

Monadenium

 

Cleistocactus

 

Gymnocalycium

 

Jatropha podagrica

Wishing all health, safety, and a bounty of beauty!

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Remember my Pitahaya (Dragon fruit)? In just a few years, five stalks, picked up from the field of a friend in San Martín Tilcajete in 2012 and planted in my garden, became a year-round green wall along the chain link fence that separates the terrace of Casita Colibrí from the neighboring property. Its perfumed massive white glow-in-the-dark flowers beckoned bats and bees and the resulting luscious red fruit were garden highlights.

Do you also remember that a taproot grew into the wall and down into the apartment below? Alas, the result, in the fall of 2016, was having to cut down the entire wall of Pitahaya. However, some the stalks were saved and planted along the wall adjacent to the apartment’s garbage can/recycling collection area. Lucky us, last night into early morning, the Pitahaya put on quite a show and put the bees to work!

A win win for all concerned!

 

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Sunday morning’s walk found empty streets…

Looking south on Calle Macedonio Alcalá.

Looking north on Calle Macedonio Alcalá.

Closed parks…

Jardín Conzatti.

“Parque Cerrado” – Parque Juarez El Llano.

And, beauty.

Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo seen from the atrium of Templo Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Flamboyant trees from the atrium of Templo Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Yesterday, there were 25 new Covid-19 cases in the state of Oaxaca, including the first two in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

 

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